Equivalence in Translation
Islamic Azad University,
Hamedan Branch, Iran
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See also: "Equivalence
in Translation" by Amin Kariminia
Finding equivalents in translation involves decoding
the SL text and making an attempt to find an appropriate
equivalent In the TL to encode whatever has been
decoded in SL .
Difference in languages
Language as a means of manifestation of human minds,
customs, and cultures
Translation as applied linguistics
main purpose of this paper is to explain the concept
of equivalence in translation. To this end, first
language and translation are defined. Later, examples
are provided to develop the discussion. Each example
indicates an area of standards in English and Persian.
In fact, the process of finding equivalents in the
two languages is that the translator should first
decode the source text (ST), that is, to figure out
the meaning / message/ intention of the original speaker
or writer and then ask himself or herself how the
same decoded meaning/ message/ intention is encoded
in the target text (TT). For example, based on the
type of text and situation, the words or expressions:
owl, 2) shoulder, 3) coal, 4) run, 5)...., 6) metonymy
and synecdoche, 7) do not, 8) gold, 9) inch, 10) drink,
11) fall in English may be equivalent to: 1) hod-
hod (hoopoe), 2) garden, 3) zierah (literally cumin),
4) maviz (literally raisins), 5) ba, as, 6) majaz
morsal, 7) nistam, 8) aienah (literally mirror), 9)
vajab (literally span), 10) khordan, 11) khordan (literally
to eat) in Persian, respectively.
1.1. Definition: It has been argued
that language is arbitrary. By arbitrariness it is
meant that there is no one-to-one correspondence between
the form of the word and the shape of the object to
which the word refers (Yule, 1985,18). This is especially
true in the case of the abstract words such as advice,
meaning, feeling, etc. This means that language
is based on conventions.
1.2. Languages are different: The arbitrariness
of language is a cause for variation among languages.
Speakers of different languages mix the sounds of
those languages differently to make the words which
refer to objects / concepts; they mix the words in
different ways to make structural patterns.
1.3. Language as a means of mirroring human's perception/
thoughts: Different peoples (nations), based on
some factors such as belief, culture and thought may
perceive some aspects of the world differently and,
thus, express their perception accordingly, that is,
the nature of their expression is influenced by the
nature of their perception. One may perceive a cloud
as something animate. Then the property or the feature
of a word which indicates this phenomenon may be different
from that of a language which considers cloud
as an inanimate being. The ideal whiteness for somebody
may be that of snow, but for another one that of a
bedsheet. If so, the Persian speaker will say "(ba
sefidi barf)" (as white as snow), while the English
speaker will say "as white as bedsheet."
2.1. Definition: Converting one language (SL)
to another (TL) so that the TL could
convey the intended message in SL. In other
words, it is a process through which the translator
decodes SL and encodes his understanding of
the TL form.
2.2. Translation As Applied Linguistics: Linguistically,
translation is a branch of applied linguistics, for
in the process of translation the translator consistently
makes any attempt to compare and contrast different
aspects of two languages to find the equivalents.
If a specific linguistic unit in one
language carries the same intended meaning / message
encoded in a specific linguistic medium in another,
then these two units are considered to be equivalent.
The domain of equivalents covers linguistic units
such as morphemes, words, phrases, clauses, idioms
and proverbs. So, finding equivalents is the most
problematic stage of translation. It is worth mentioning,
however, it is not meant that the translator should
always find one-to-one categorically or structurally
equivalent units in the two languages, that is, sometimes
two different linguistic units in different languages
carry the same function. For example, the verb "happened"
in the English sentence "he happens to be happy"
equals the adverb "etefaghan" (by chance)
in the Persian sentence: "u etefaghan khosh hal
ast". The translator, after finding out the meaning
of an SL linguistic form, should ask himself
/ herself what the linguistic form is in another languageTLfor
the same meaning to be encoded by.
3.1. Examples of Equivalents in English & Persian
The European Owl may be equal to Iranian hod-hod(hoopoe)
He is an
owl. = u hodhod ast.
Coal in English may equal ziera (raisins) in Persian
and Newcastle in English may equal Kerman (a city
in Iran), hence:
coal to Newcastle = ziera ba Kerman bordan
Shoulder in English may equal gradan (neck) in
rests on my shoulders. = Masuliat bar gardan man ast.
Bedsheet in English may equal barf (snow) in Persian:
as bedsheet = ba sefidie barf.
Inch in English may equal "vajab"(span)
in Persian (Safarzadeh, 1374: 36). They knew every
inch of the field. = A nha ba mazra (farm) vajab ba
vajab ashnaie dashtand.
Gold in English may equal aieneh (mirror): heart
of gold = aieneh delan.
Thread in English may equal moo (hair) in Persian
(Tabriz university conference on translation 1364:
hangs by a thread. = Zendagie u ba mooie band ast.
The number 9 in English may equal the number 7 in
dressed up to nines. = Haft ghalam araiesh kardah
The verbs walk and run in English may
equal qhoorah (sour grape) and maviz (literally raisins)
in Persian respectively (Birijandi and Rashtchi, 1374:
one can walk = Hanooz ghoorah (unripe grape) nashodah
ast mee khāhad maviz (raisins) shavad.
Sometimes a multiple-meaning term in English may equal
several terms in Persian and vice versa. For example,
the term depression in English equals enhefaz
ofioogh (in astrology); kasadi ( in economy)
afsordagi ( in psychology); frooraftagi (in dissection);
froobar (in meteorology), and the term "selselah"
in Persian equals
kingdom 2 - [mountain] range
dynasty 4 - [publication] series.
example, the term "tabaghah" in Persian
1 - class; 2 - layer; 3- floor; 4 - category; 5 -
Nejad, 1372/ 1993: 336).
word "khordan"(to eat) in Persian collocates
with many other words, in the examples: sarma (cold)
khordan; chaie (tea) khordan; zamin (ground) khordan;
ghaza (food) khordan.
however, as far as collocatability is concerned in
English are: 1) "to eat" [for food], 2)
"to drink" [for tea], 3) "to
fall" [for ground] and 4) "to catch"
[for cold] respectively
The Persian word "raies" collocates with
1) edarah (office), 2) daneshgah (university), 3)
4) daneshkadeh (faculty), 5) jemhoor (public) and
6) deir (monastery);
while in English the parenthetical words are collocated
by 1) boss, 2) chancellor, 3) magistrate, 4) dean,
5) president, and 6) superior respectively.
A compound adjective in English may be translated
into an adjective clause in Persian:
essays were returned to the students .
haie ra ke moalem kontrol kardeh bood be daneshjooyan
bar gardandeh shodand.
part is an adjective clause in Persian.
A linguistic element which is explicit in Persian
may be implicit in English and vice versa:
1. Man ba shoma komak mikonan.
1. I help you.
2. Man az an estefadah mikonam
2. I use it
3. Harfe u ra bavar mikoni?
3. Do you believe him?
1. He is a student
1. u danesh amooz ast.
2. I have two books.
2. Man du ketab daram.
prepositions "ba," (to) "az,"
(from) and the word "harf" (talk / speech)
in Persian have been used explicitly, which their
equivalents in English are hidden or zero. On the
other hand, the indefinite article "a"
and the plural morpheme "-s" in English
are explicit, but their equivalents are implicit in
A three-part compound word in English may be translated
into a single word in Persian: "daughter-in-law"
= "aroos" (Ziahoseini, 1375: 65).
3.1.16. A single literary term in Persian may
be translated into two literary terms in English:
Metonymy & synecdoche
majaz (morsal) in Persian covers all types of subtitution,
that is, the instrument for agent, the container for
the thing contained, whole for part, effect for the
cause etc. In English, however, the term synecdoche
is used when part stands for whole and the other accompaniments
are categorized under the term "metonymy."
(Karimi, 1372: 91-3)
A simple Persian word may be translated into a compound
from in English and vice versa:
Nejad, 1373: 305)
A noun in the genitive case in English may be translated
into an adjective in Persian:
Acts of agression
noun in genitive case
Eghdamat tajavoz garane
(Rashidi, 1373: 36)
The perfect future tense in English may be translated
into persent perfect or simple future tense in Persian
(Modiri, 1336, 192).
shall have written = neveshtah am/ khaham nevesht.
In the case of passive structures, it is usually better
to hold "theme" in the same position in
both Persian and English:
building was designed by an Iranian architect.
ra yak memar Irani tarahi kard. (This building by
an architect Iranian designing did).
this example, "this building / in sakhteman"
has been considered to be theme and the rest of the
sentence as rheme. Therefore, the message has been
kept the same in the two languages.
"Do not" in English sometimes equals
"nistam" (not am) in Persian:
do not agree with you. Man ba shoma movafegh nistam.
Sometimes "morgh" (hen) in Persian
may equal "grass" in English:
hamsayeh ghaz (goose) ast.(Hen of neighbour goose
is ). = The neigbour's grass is greener.
Sometimes, due to religious, cultural
and literary factors, it is difficult to find a standard
equivalent in one language for another. For example,
in Iran, a person who has come back from a piligrimage
to Imam Reza's shrine in Mashhad (a city in Iran)
is called "mashhadi." Such a religiously
loaded term either is impossible or quite difficult
to be translated into a standard equivalent. In
European culture the bird called "owl" symbolically
represents "wisdom"; while in Iran it is
the representative of "inauspiciousness."
If "owl" in a literary English text is used
figuratively, its equivalent can not be "joghd"
(owl) in Persian; perhaps, "hod-hod" ( hoopoe)
is preferred. What should the translator do when s/he
encounters thorny areas like those mentioned above?
Since language is used as a means of communication,
except for the untranslatable cases such as figures
of soundpun, alliteration, assonance, consonance,
metrical patterns etc., the translator may appeal
to interpetation. For instance, in the above instances
s/ he may use "a person who has made a piligrimage
to Imam Reza's shrine in Mashhad, Iran" for
mashhadi in the from of a footnote and "hakim"
within the text for the figurative usage of "owl"
if "hod-hod" or another bird does not meet
the translator's need.
render a satisfactory translation the translator needs
to be acquainted with phonological, morphological,
syntactic, semantic, pragmatic, idiomatic, religious,
and cultural systems of both SL & TL to
either find standard equivalents, give an explanation,
or otherwise convey the author's intended meaning
to the TL audience.
Aryanpoor, Abbas (1984). The New Unabridged English-Persian
Dictionary Vol. V,T Tehran: Amir-Kabir publishing
and printing institution.
Birjandi, Parviz and Rashtchi, Mojgān (1374).
Idiomatic Expressions in English and Persian.
Scientific Publications Center of Islamic Azad University.
Karimi, Lotfollah (1372). A Contrastive Analysis
of English-Persian Literary Terms. Tehran: Scientific
and Cultural Assembly of Majed.
Miremadi, Seyed-ali (1370). Theories of Translation
and Interptation. Center for Studying and
Compiling University Books in Humanities (SAMET).
Modiri, A. H. A Complete English Grammar. Tehran:
Amir- Kabir publishing Lnistitution, 1336.
Newmark, P. (1988). A Textbook of Translation.
London: Prentice-Hall International.
Yule, George (1988). The Study of Language. Cambridge
Ziahosseini, S.M. (1373). An Introduction
to Contrastive Linguistics. Islamic Azad UniversityTehran
Branch, office of vice-chancellor research.
ترجمه و مترجم:آموزش
اصول و قواعد
چاپ و انتشارات
اصول و مبانی
روش های مقابله
با واژه های
فارسی . مرکز
رضوی ، تهران.
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